Help improving my wardrobe
December 16, 2010 7:06 AM   Subscribe

Recommend me someone who can tell me What Not To Wear in NYC.

I don't think I'm a horribly unattractive person - in fact, I can "clean up" quite nicely. And, when I do, many times, folks who know me are surprised. However, when I am not dressing for black tie - i.e., on a daily, working basis, I think I am pretty slubby. My clothes never seem to fit right, after a while. I buy clothes that I think fit, but then, they seem to get baggy and loose - and, while I've been more active this year, it's not like I am continually losing weight. Button-down shirts develop unsightly wrinkles in the middle. I walk around New York, and I feel like I look like a slob compared to everyone else. I work on Wall Street, and I'd like to project a better image - as well as look better generally, for my own self-esteem. But I don't know what I'm doing wrong. I've tried for two years to get rid of clothes that I didn't feel good in, or that didn't fit right, and buy new things. But I always end up with ill-fitting clothing that usually makes me feel like I look bad, all the time.

I am betting that there is some kind of personal consultant out there who can help me go through my closet and get rid of old things with a vengeance - and then help me figure out how to re-stock. I'm hoping not to pay a fortune, but I also realize this is a luxury type service, so I realize it may not be cheap. I guess I kind of want my own Carson!

Has anyone had experience with this? Can you recommend any service providers, or resources for more information? My self-esteem and my career are starting to suffer, and I'm tired of it - I think I can look halfway decent, if I try - and have help, because I'm trying now without success! I live in Manhattan, but am willing to travel.
posted by mccn to Shopping (23 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I have done this service for several people.....I sent you some mefi mail with more details.
posted by The1andonly at 7:24 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think the budget version of what you're looking for is a combination of a good tailor and a good drycleaner. The former will take items that kinda-sorta fit and make them (close to) perfect, the later will clean and press dress shirts, suits and sweaters to make them look immaculate and keep their shape all day. A good cleaner will asked you how much starch you want and will give you a menu of options for your shirts. Machine press is fine, as long as you are not allergic to it, ask for a small amount of starch. You won't believe the difference this makes at the end of a long day.

As for new clothes, I personal have my dress shirts made. I know I've mentioned this before on the green so I'll keep this short: about $55 per shirt, stick to plain colors and simple patterns, have to plan ahead because the tailor only comes in from Hong Kong about twice a year. No shirt will ever fit you perfectly off the rack and imperfectly fitting shirts wear "funny" and develop wrinkles.
posted by 2bucksplus at 7:29 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

But I always end up with ill-fitting clothing that usually makes me feel like I look bad, all the time.

You need an intervention. Someone else to dress you outside of your comfort zone. Most men call this "a girlfriend" but there are obviously other solutions.

One trick is to buy complete outfits and very few individual pieces. When you buy a new suit, get some shirts and ties AND SHOES to go with it. When you buy a new pair of pants, buy a shirt or two from the same collection to match. Avoid department stores. The people who work in boutiques know much better what they have on the shelves and what goes together.

Everytime you buy something new, get rid of something in the closet.

This way you force yourself to get rid of the clothes you "like", but actually look awful in.
posted by three blind mice at 7:39 AM on December 16, 2010

Perhaps it is the Wall Street that is throwing folks off, but just to clarify - I'm female. I do agree that I need an intervention - and I think I may need to get rid of things even when I don't buy something new - if something that makes me look awful isn't on a hangar, then I can't pick it up and wear it, right? But I don't know who can intervene. I suppose I could look for a girlfriend! :) But my female friends have not been super helpful in this area so far.

I like the complete outfit idea - that's a good tip. I do have a good drycleaner - and have considered taking things to the tailor, but I am wondering if, I have to take, say, all my pants to the tailor, if I might not be better off learning how to shop from someone, and getting a new set? It can be pretty expensive to have your entire wardrobe tailored. :)
posted by mccn at 7:44 AM on December 16, 2010

For further clarification: I appreciate the suggestions on how to dress, but what I really need is a consultant, someone who can look at me, look at what I have, and take me in hand - I have done all the self-educating I can, and have tried a lot of things suggested, but I still feel like I look sloppy. I really would like a third party reference here, if one exists.
posted by mccn at 7:48 AM on December 16, 2010

Bloomingdale's has a personal shopper service that can help you with this. Also maybe check -- I don't know if they have stylists on there, but you can post a request on there for one I believe.
posted by sweetkid at 7:48 AM on December 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

I was just in a Banana Republic that had personal shopper/style adviser service by appointment. Not sure if they all have it or just that one.
posted by The Dutchman at 8:14 AM on December 16, 2010

I have taken advantage of a more low-cost version of this: browsing for upscale clothes with a salesperson without buying something, most of the time. Those salespeople are your consultants. After a while of trying on various clothes that "fit right," it became more and more obvious which of my current clothes fit poorly and what I should look for when buying new clothes.
posted by deanc at 8:24 AM on December 16, 2010

Nordstrom has a free personal shopper service. There isn't a Nordstrom in NYC, but there are two in New York state. They also provide some free tailoring on some items and will send the tailored item to your home. Tailoring can make a huge difference for fit for women's clothing.
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:39 AM on December 16, 2010

The J. Crew in my area also has a personal shopping service.
posted by something something at 8:42 AM on December 16, 2010

Nordstrom has a personal shopper department (if you go I would try Short Hills or Westchester, and remember that the Rack stores do not have them). A big however though - at least as of a few years ago, there really aren't too many guidelines for people having those jobs - at least then, the main requirement was that you could attract and retain a decent client base that would buy things from all over the store. It's a commission position, and the idea is to sell you things that they can make money from - so the advice might not be great advice and it most likely would be biased anyway.

I'd be wary of the services attached to stores - they have jobs because they are good salespeople, not because they have a great eye for how to help people out with style.

I'll see if I can find a recommendation for someone independent in NYC. I'd expect it to be super pricey though.

I would start with very specific issues that you can identify and correct - say the shirts with the weird wrinkle. If they are cotton shirts, the mild starch idea can help. I find brooks brothers slimmer fitted shirts, the no wrinkle ones, hold up decently.

Are you buying nice enough clothing to start with? You are on the right track with getting rid of things that don't work for you, which is good!

If you have an overall sense of feeling slubby, there is no shortcut for the fact that you have to feel a little fabulous to look fabulous, and you have to put in effort. A different kind of effort than for black tie, but it's still effort. You do have to take stuff to the tailor, which is expensive and kind of sucks, and you have to do the little things that make you feel more polished. Is your hair done, are your nails good, what do your shoes look like? All of those are little things that can slide when you're busy and it's not a priority, and can feel like a waste of time, but they do add up.
posted by mrs. taters at 8:53 AM on December 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think that honestly using a personal shopper might be well worth the investment, because they won't be trying to sell you on one particular store. My problem with things like the JCrew personal shoppers is that I don't fit JCrew clothes very well, so it isn't the best store for me to shop at. . Also I don't generally think the folks at a department store do a very good job.

I've had a tough time learning to dress like a grown up but I am lucky enough to have a friend who works in fashion and she helped me out -- it was amazing. She taught me What Not To Wear and how to put on makeup. I'm not a clothes and makeup person to begin with so it was tough for me in the work-world but she helped me out a lot and now I can do it all by myself. You know what they say about teaching a (wo)man to fish...

Anyway, I did some searching around for you, and this might be worth looking into (I don't know these folks and I'm not shilling for them, I just did the google legwork for you):

Send 'em an email, tell them what you need and see if you can haggle on the rates?
posted by blue_bicycle at 9:46 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

From the problems you list, I'm guessing that what you want to do is buy higher quality, and either develop really fantastic ironing technique or splurge on sending your button down shirts out to be washed and pressed. (NOT dry cleaned - dry cleaning is bad for shirts for some reason that I don't understand.)

If the problem is that you find a lot of your clothes to be "ill-fitting", it might be a good idea to grab a range of sizes when you shop, even though you're confident that you wear a 6 or a Medium or whatever. Where you buy which items can also make a difference - button down shirts from the Gap always fit me weird, but the same basic item from Uniqlo is a dream. Even though the Uniqlo shirts are cheaper!

Developing a repertoire of where to shop for what items can also be helpful. This might be a good area to consult with someone, because they'll already know things like "the tops at Banana Republic are all going to run short on you, but the ones at Ann Taylor are half an inch longer", or whatever.

and have considered taking things to the tailor, but I am wondering if, I have to take, say, all my pants to the tailor, if I might not be better off learning how to shop from someone, and getting a new set? It can be pretty expensive to have your entire wardrobe tailored. :)

My neighborhood tailor charges $10 to hem a pair of pants. I would guess that taking all your pants to the tailor would probably be cheaper than hiring some sort of Clothing Consultant who exhaustively searches the planet for pants that naturally come in your inseam. Even Stacy and Clinton advocate tailoring!
posted by Sara C. at 9:50 AM on December 16, 2010

If you lived in SF I'd have a great recommendation for you. I had the same exact problem and I hired a Stylist for a day. She sat down with me, talked to me about my style and my life and then took me shopping and helped me with some makeup. When my sister saw her, she also helped her with her hair. I am sure these people exist in New York. The afternoon cost me a few hundred dollars in her time and she was able to take me to stores only in my price range. She also offered a service where she would come to your house and evaluate what you already had. I had so little - I didn't bother with this.
I've sent at least 5 people I know to see Beth - they all come back raving. It is seriously life changing. I would highly recommend the experience.
posted by Wolfie at 9:56 AM on December 16, 2010

Wolfie: Maybe Beth has a recommendation for someone in NY?
posted by AugustWest at 10:18 AM on December 16, 2010

But I always end up with ill-fitting clothing that usually makes me feel like I look bad, all the time.

Tailor, and better quality. (Better quality doesn't necessarily mean more expensive -- just better fabrics, like merino wools and nice cottons.) Women's clothes don't really fit anyone off the rack. The rule of thumb is that you buy something to fit you in your biggest place, then get the rest tailored. For example, a lot of women will have size 10 thighs and size 6 waist -- buy the 10s and get the waist taken in.
posted by yarly at 11:11 AM on December 16, 2010

I have a friend who is a stylist and personal shopper in NYC. I will send you MeMail with more info.

Generally, finding a great tailor is a good idea. Hong Kong Tailor Jack in the West Village is very good, if a bit busy. You may be able to find a good tailor in your neighborhood - check Time Out New York or New York Magazine for their "best of" listings. Even with a great stylist, you will still need a tailor for some things because off-the-rack clothing rarely fits people perfectly.
posted by bedhead at 11:16 AM on December 16, 2010

Are you watching What Not To Wear on a regular basis? That show taught me how to find pants that fit (i.e. what part matters and what can be tailored afterwards). I don't have a personal-shopper recommendation, but, there are some pretty fashionable NYC mefites - I bet if you proposed a "Come to Macy's and help me try on clothes" meetup over on IRL you'd get some free Carsons for a day.
posted by oh yeah! at 11:30 AM on December 16, 2010

I'm drawn to this because I find myself in a new job and a similar situation. I've been trying to wear more accessories because that's an easy and often cheaper way to dress something up than buying a whole new outfit. I'm also trying to get into more "classic" types of clothes (wrap dresses, for example. I'm trying to buy a turtle neck sweater too). And if I find something I like (specifically cuts of pants but also sweaters) I'll get a few in different colors. Also, buying outfits helps. Good luck!
posted by kat518 at 12:13 PM on December 16, 2010

If you have a fairly normal physique and will mainly need standard alterations done, you probably don't need to find The Best Tailor in all of New York City. What I'd do is look for conveniently located tailors via Yelp. Unless they get horrible reviews, I'd give them a try. A professional tailor is not going to mess up hemming your pants. I did have someone re-lining a jacket accidentally skip one of the pockets, but they happily fixed it once I pointed it out. Tailors are tailors. I wouldn't assume from the outset that they are going to ruin your clothes.
posted by Sara C. at 12:19 PM on December 16, 2010

Do you need to wear button-down shirts? Honestly, finding a button-down shirt that fits properly is ridiculously hard if you are at all busty or apple-shaped. Switching to shells or tanks or very fine gauge knits for that layer will immediately smooth everything out.
posted by apparently at 1:51 PM on December 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

As a follow - up, I did actually just plunk down a lot of cash to work with one of the suggested stylists, Chic Inspiration. It was a really revolutionary experience - I had a phone interview, a closet clean-out (I had no pants for a week!) and a personal shopping excursion. Today, I open my closet and feel great about everything in there; not to mention, I have bought a shirt or two on sale since, and they also look great. I learned a lot and would highly recommend the service to anyone. It's pricey, but if you can afford it, it's well worth it! I also got recommendations for two individuals who perform this service, whose price is more affordable, and I'd be happy to pass those on.

Not only do I feel better, but people notice. I've gotten compliments at work, and requests for referrals from those who knew what I was up to - and I had a lady interrupt me at dinner to tell me how much she liked my dress, which has never, ever happened before in my life. It's better than therapy - I feel much more confident in my job and appearance.
posted by mccn at 7:03 AM on January 31, 2011

get custom made clothes on :) always fits, cheaper too
posted by groovinkim at 12:04 AM on February 6, 2011

« Older Best Librarian Mags   |   Joshua Tree/Palm Springs in the rain Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.